UPDATE: WFAA report, ‘Alarming’ study shows dangerous water along Barnett Shale
Energywire: Texas study finds drilling contaminants in groundwater
“We found way more contamination in areas that have been heavily drilled,” said biochemist Zachariah Hildenbrand. “A lot of these compounds are drilling-specific. There are some pretty telltale signs.
Fracking water pollution is widespread in North Texas
A comprehensive study of potential groundwater pollution from “unconventional oil and gas drilling” found widespread pollution in North Texas private and public drinking water.
The UT Arlington team tested 550 water samples collected from public and private water wells in North Texas’ Barnett Shale region over the past three years. It found elevated levels of 10 different metals as well as the presence of 19 different chemicals compounds including so-called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes) compounds associated with hydraulic fracturing. The study also found elevated levels of methanol and ethanol. Source
Download the study HERE or HERE
The exploration of unconventional shale energy reserves and the extensive use of hydraulic fracturing during well stimulation have raised concerns about the potential effects of unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOG) on the environment. Most accounts of groundwater contamination have focused primarily on the compositional analysis of dissolved gases to address whether UOG activities have had deleterious effects on overlying aquifers. Here, we present an analysis of 550 groundwater samples collected from private and public supply water wells drawing from aquifers overlying the Barnett shale formation of Texas. We detected multiple volatile organic carbon compounds throughout the region, including various alcohols, the BTEX family of compounds, and several chlorinated compounds. These data do not necessarily identify UOG activities as the source of contamination; however, they do provide a strong impetus for further monitoring and analysis of groundwater quality in this region as many of the compounds we detected are known to be associated with UOG techniques.
Nuggets from the study
- analysis of 550 groundwater samples collected from private and public supply water wells drawing from aquifers overlying the Barnett shale formation of Texas.
- multiple volatile organic carbon compounds throughout the region, including various
61 alcohols, the BTEX family of compounds, and several chlorinated compounds.
- elevated levels of 10 different metals and the presence of 117 different chemical compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene (BTEX).
- 350 samples came from private wells serving residential purposes
- 59 samples came from agricultural water wells
- 141 samples came from 152 municipal or public water supply wells servicing communities throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
- methanol and/or ethanol were detected in 35 and 240 wells respectively. Methanol and ethanol both are used extensively in unconventional drilling as anti-corrosive agents and gelling agents.
- Dichloromethane (DCM) was detected in 122 samples. [DCM is an industrial solvent that has been detected in air samples and flowback in fracking areas.]
- “At least one of the BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) class of compounds was detected in 381 of 550 collected samples, and 10 wells had detectable amounts of all four BTEX compounds.”
- “Toluene, ethylbenzene, and three xylene isomers were also found to be prevalent throughout the Trinity and Woodbine aquifers.”
- “Cyclohexane was also detected in 221 of the 550 collected samples”
You need to read the whole study to get the complete picture of all the above bullets.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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Kim Feil says
And that is the ground water they studied…just think of all the surface spills on each of the thousands of drill sites and along the roads where the trucks have been and every time it rains….
An Urban Drilling Poem by Arlington resident, Kim Triolo Feil…
the rain is pouring with no end in sight…
with fracking as neighbors, this compounds our plight
the gas wells at the end of our road
are just waiting to likely bestow
colloids formed from the dirt on the site
by spills from frackers and nomads alike
toxins now flow off the sites with the rains
and run off into the convenient storm drains
into Johnson Creek
so no one will freak
…its pollutions’ delight….
its politicians we should fight
Also I worry that the floods will impede
the fracking trucks that come daily to feed
the injections wells every day
its how the drivers get their exposures pay
with toxic waste from storage tanks
for which Republicans give thanks
woe is the water in their path
mother nature is laughing – you can smell her wrath
as the shut off valves fail and the tanks overflow
watch the flooded drill sites make Brownfields aglow
flowing down drains
and down our streets
and at our front door
Vera Scroggins says
thanks, Kim for the poem; sad to read what humans are willing to do and tolerate and disregard
in their focus on jobs and profits.
“out of sight and out of mind”….hide toxins under the earth and bring others up to the surface.
tragic situation for all of us and future generations…
“These data do not necessarily identify UOG activities as the source of contamination; however, they do provide a strong impetus for further monitoring and analysis”
apparently you missed the above statement in your eagerness to blame UOG for every evil in the world. the next step will be to molecular analysis of the compounds found since it has been proved that natural gas has a molecular type of DNA that allows one to identify if a sample comes from a well or not.
I seriously doubt that you will post this comment since it is contrary to your beliefs
Long time to see.
You should read the whole report. The closer you get to wells the worse the contamination is. People who don’t live near wells do not have contamination. But, it’s expected that you would dispute the findings. Just keep watching.
How are things at Denton County?
Oh Yee of great DNA knowledge above–please give us more details about this DNA stuff.
Such as experience, reliability, accuracy, etc., etc.
Also where is the industry “specification” for conducting this DNA testing?
Also, does it identify natural gas that has been long “dissolved” in fresh drinking water?
Need more poop from you.
Arthur DeVitalis says
We see the brown muddy Frac Fluid Truck leakage trails on the pavement in the center of the lanes north bound IH 35 between Alverado and Burleson.
Thank you for posting this and the link to the full paper. Having a degree in toxicology and living in Denton, I’ve been very curious about contaminants in the area water. I look forward to reading future studies!
Mike Potter says
Without reading the full report… the key findings say ‘elevated levels’ of various compounds. How significantly elevated are they? Significant enough to represent a small moderate or high risk to health?
“Benzene was detected in 34 wells, 91% of which were detected from samples collected within the Barnett shale region. Benzene concentrations exceeded the MCL guideline of 0.005 mg/L in all 34 of the detections and reached a maximum concentration of 0.09 mg/L.”
The amount of benzene was the one that stood out to me. The maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) is set at 0 mg/L of benzene in drinking water because there is no safe level. Since that is unattainable due to cost and/or difficulty of removal, the maximum contaminant level (MCL) is set at the 0.005 mg/L (5 parts per billion (ppb)). I don’t know what the increased chance of illness is when the level is 0.09 mg/L, though. Long-term exposure increases the risk and risk is also most likely weight based. Groundwater benzene can also evaporate causing indoor air contamination, adding another exposure route.
Mike Potter says
As a non expert, that sounds significantly above the guideline concentrations – which are presumably a safe acceptable level. I would guess that these elevated concentrations are not causing immediate and obvious symptoms, but are highly likely to create a distinct health risk over time. I’m in the UK at a location where the industry and government are desperate to find whether the Bowland Shale will be productive, so am naturally keen to know about the long term health effects (among all the other potential nasties).
I’m definitely not an expert, as the only knowledge I have of benzene is from my Environmental Tox and Environmental Public Health courses, but I do know it’s an endocrine disruptor and known (and EPA recognized) carcinogen. The cancer most often attributed to benzene is leukemia. It also has been linked to neurological and developmental problems in fetuses. There’s also the possibility for cumulative effects with other harmful chemicals and drugs that people come in contact with daily. Long-term health effects are the hardest to show, especially when effects may not be seen for decades or they affect more than one generation. It makes it easier for people to dismiss the dangers when effects aren’t seen immediately. Of course, it should also make it easier to put public health first since many of the health effects of these chemicals are known, but as we’ve seen, it hasn’t.
Data on this was severely lacking. I like how this was done around same time as EPA began to conclude their study.